The traditional karate uniform is known as a gi or dogi. It is usually white, made of canvas and has no zippers, buttons or other hard fasteners. The jacket is worn overlapped and tied like a kimono, and the pants are held up with a canvas drawstring. A gi earns a reputation for quality if it is durable, crisp but not irritatingly stiff, truly white and not slightly yellow.
Tokaido is one of the oldest, best-known high-end gi manufacturers. Based in Japan, the company has been selling gi all over the world for several decades. The gi are hand-cut and sewn from fabric that has a reputation for durability. The quality comes with a higher price tag, however, with Tokaido's tournament gi costing over $200, as of April 2018.
Shureido is another well-known, long-standing, high-end gi manufacturer. Based in Okinawa, Shureido sells a duck canvas heavyweight gi with a characteristic pale blue color. Because the company blues its fabric to guard against yellowing, a new Shureido gi is slightly blue until it has been washed a few times. After washing, though, Shureido holds its white color well. It is a durable, hard-wearing gi. You'll also pay for the quality of Shureido gis which range over $200.
Tokon is an old, reliable German-made brand. It has a tournament line, which is slightly wider and shorter than the traditional cut. The company has uniforms suitable for the beginner, intermediate, avanced and instructor, and its uniforms are perfect for Shito-ryu, Goju-ryu and Wado-ryu and other traditional styles. The prices range from $55 to $195.
Toyo is another Japanese-manufactured gi. It is cut on a traditional Japanese pattern. Like the Shureido, it is made of no. 10 canvas and has been treated to resist shrinking, a common problem in all-cotton gi. It is commonly regarded as a durable, high-end gi, though in the United States it is not as famous as Tokaido or Shureido. The gi sells for about $195, as of April 2018.
Meijin is a newer brand designed under the advisement of several masters with the intent of producing an American-made gi that could rival Shureido and Tokaido. Meijin offers underarm gussets and a waistband lined with cotton gauze to prevent bunching. It also has split sizes, allowing you to match a jacket to pants of a different size. Though not as time-tested as other brands, Meijin gi get favorable reviews. The price is typically between $100 and $150, as of April 2018.
Kwon, another German manufacturer, began making taekwondo uniforms. It sells several karate gi: traditional cut, kumite, kata and a premium gi. Most of its gi are made of a distinctive brushed cotton fabric that is crisp but soft against the skin. The gi are approved by the World Karate Federation for tournament wear and retail for about $100.
Jukado International produces the Juka and Dragon gi lines. Juka is the high-end gi, Dragon is the student gi. The Juka gi come in 12- and 14-ounce brushed canvas in both a traditional and tournament cut. Juka also offers the Juka Diamond, a gi cut specifically for women. The Dragon 10-ounce is a light heavyweight gi cut on the same pattern as the Juka gi but of a less expensive canvas. The Juka gi sell for $90 to $115 and the Dragon for $45 to $55, as of April 2018.
Century, owned and operated by martial artists, offers both midweight and heavyweight gi. Century uses a nontraditional, but comfortable, elastic waist on some of its gi. It also offers cotton/polyester blends and split sizes. The jackets of its gi tend to be a bit shorter than traditional Japanese gi, and the gi are cut for Americans. They are priced at $50 to $150, as of April 2018, depending on quality and features.
Mugen is a brand better known in Europe than the United States, but it's highly reviewed both in the U.S. and overseas. The mugen gi is an affordable 100 percent cotton brushed canvas tournament gi weighing 10 ounces to 13.75 ounces. It is cut is similar to the Toyo, but at $70 to $80 the Mugen is less expensive, as of April 2011.
It was inevitable that Adidas would eventually manufacture a karate gi. It was probably also inevitable that the gi would differ from the traditional gi that came before it. Adidas gi are made of either 100 percent cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester and are cut either traditional or American depending on the model. The Adidas gi may not be the most traditional, but they have been endorsed by the World Karate Federation.
- Shureido: FAQ
- Tokon: History of Tokon Karate Uniforms
- KI International Corporation: Toyo Karate Uniform - Made in Japan (white premium karate gi)
- Dragon Associates Inc: Meijin Pro
- Jukado International LLC: Karate Uniforms
- Century: WHY CENTURY
- KI International Corporation: KI's Mugen Brand Karate gi (Karate uniforms)
- Dynamics: Karate